Why is being sober so taboo?

When did saying no to alcohol become such a big deal? We ask the experts to weigh in.

Don’t fancy a tipple at work drinks on a Friday night, or a cold beer at the footy game?

Chances are your choice to abstain from alcohol has led to plenty of questions from your family, friends or colleagues on occasion.

So why do we give non-drinkers such a hard time?

Alcohol: The socially acceptable drug

In Australia, having a drink to relax at the end of a day has become ingrained in our way of life.

“Unfortunately, due to an entrenched drinking culture in Australia, many people feel there’s an expectation to drink socially to have fun or fit in,” Alcohol and Drug Foundation spokeswoman Laura Bajurny says.

This means that often when you’re abstaining at a social occasion, there can be derisive comments made about your stance or peer-pressure to join in and participate.

But never fear: that hassle you encounter probably says more about the person making the comment than you.

“People may have a negative response when others say they’re not consuming alcohol because they themselves may feel judged for their own drinking habits or feel self-conscious about their behaviour when consuming alcohol,” Laura says.

“People who truly care about you will support your decision.”

Know you’re not alone

And these days, people choosing to abstain from hitting the plonk are on the rise.

“With almost 20 per cent of Australians choosing not to drink, abstaining is more common than you might think,” DrinkWise chief executive officer Simon Strahan says.

Those who do drink are also reducing their intake.

In 2016-17, the total alcohol consumed in Australia was at its lowest since 1961-62 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

“For the most part, Australians have a positive relationship with alcohol,” Simon says.

“The majority of us drink moderately, while relaxing and enjoying a meal with family and friends.

“Young adults are drinking less overall and the rates of underage drinking are decreasing.

How to avoid drinking too much at social functions

Simon’s top tips on reducing your alcohol intake include:

  • Set yourself limits: And stick to them. The DrinkWise standard drinks calculator can help you keep track.
  • Have a glass of water between alcoholic drinks: This keeps you hydrated and can help slow your drinking.
  • Opt out of rounds: They can mean you drink faster or consume more than normal.
  • Choose low alcohol or non-alcoholic drinks: We’re seeing a rise in popularity and availability of alcohol alternatives, with small and large producers alike introducing low alcohol/no alcohol versions of their products into market.
  • If you are hosting an event: Ensure your guests have access to plenty of food, water and non-alcoholic drink choices – and offer to call them an Uber or a taxi at the end of the night if they have been drinking. 

Written by Erin Miller.